You, Reader – I’m speaking to you. What words do you use to describe how you grew up, your childhood? Do you use words like family, serenity, happiness….divorce? According to statistics, one half of American marriages end in divorce so I’m guessing that at least half of those have children when they get a divorce. If I’m right, then perhaps at least 25% of you reading this come from divorced families. How old were you when it happened? Me, I was in 7th grade, pretty much the beginning of puberty and a whole bunch of impressionable years before I was to become an adult.
If I were to cover everything I remember related to this topic, this would end up being a much longer story than what you will read here today. So I will start with the night my parents had ‘the big one’ and Dad moved out. Dad and Mom were having a bad argument which was going on right around dinnertime. I don’t know what they were arguing about – I was 12. Whatever it was, it was serious though. Dad picked up a pot of something off of the stove, maybe it was spaghetti, and he opened the back door and tossed the pot out into the backyard.
A lot more anger and heated words were exchanged and the argument began carrying itself into other areas of the house. The next vivid vision I have emblazoned in my memory is of my mom bent over slightly backwards near the end of the stairs across the end of the banister and my dad’s hand around my mom’s neck. I still remember the intense confusion I was feeling at the time. I wanted to stop Dad, but I was small and he was big. I don’t recall many times in my life feeling more helpless.
Later, my dad came to me. I guess he was trying to explain or apologize. He told me that he still loved my mom and that if I ever saw him do something like that, it was my duty to try to stop him. How the Hell would I do that? I thought that the evening was over, but it was not. Later that night I was awakened. Evidently my mom and dad had decided to take it to the next level. Dad was leaving the house. We four kids had been asleep in bed and my dad, in his sparkling wisdom, thought that I should be awakened so that I could choose who I wanted to live with. “You’re 12 years old and can choose who you want to live with.”
While my dad kept pressing for an answer, I kept balling, repeating “I don’t know” each time the question was asked. I had my face buried in a pillow and I remember not wanting to look up at either one of them. The pillow was a goose feather and currently didn’t have its slip cover on it. Blue and white stripe, I could feel the end of the feather come poking out at times, out into my cheek. I thought that if I gave an answer, I would be hurting someone. In terms of personal emotional moments in my life, this one sticks out pretty much for me. I couldn’t choose. I didn’t want to leave my house or my siblings. I also didn’t want to hurt Dad either. He had done some bad stuff to me like whipping me for stupid reasons (read me) and dumping a pet cat (read me), but he was still ‘Dad’.
Can you relate to what I’m saying? In hindsight, I can see that all he was really trying to do was to use me to hurt Mom. It seems like the more I write about these types of memories, the more I realize just how immature and small my dad really was (sigh). What a night; yet another great father son moment.
That was the night my parents divorced. Officially, I know it took much longer and there was some legal mumbo jumbo that had to be executed and the real last day of marriage was some time after this evening. But for us Wyatt kids, (or at least for me), this night was the night my parents split up and we all did a little more growing up on Prytania.